Skip to Main Content

Legal Research Checklist

This checklist is to help you consider all the different types of information that might be helpful for legal research. You won't necessarily need to use every type of information listed here, but the checklist helps you consider methodically if a particular type of information would be relevant to your research question.


  • What words or phrases are key to this area of law?
  • What other ways can the same concept be expressed (synonyms)?
  • As you work through this checklist, you will probably refine and add to this list.

Secondary Sources

Primary Sources - Legislation

  • Statutes

    • Check statutes from all relevant jurisdictions.  You can use our Canadian Legislation page to locate reliable open access sources.  You can also use WestlawNext Canada or Lexis Advance Quicklaw Plus (and law students can use their individual Westlaw Edge Canada and Lexis Advance Quicklaw accounts). 
    • Do you need to look at historical statutes? Our Canadian Legislation page will show you what's available online, and we have full runs of historical statutes in print in the law library.
  • Regulations

  • Note up Statutes and Regulations

    • Note up statutes and regulations to see how courts have interpreted and applied them.  You can use WestlawNext Canada or Lexis Advance Quicklaw Plus for this (and law students can also use their individual Westlaw Edge Canada and Lexis Advance Quicklaw accounts) .

Primary Sources - Case Law

  • Cases and Case Law Digests

    • Before beginning a full-text search, save time and increase precision by using the Canadian Abridgment ( available on WestlawNext Canada) or the Canada Digest (on Lexis Advance Quicklaw Plus) to find summaries of cases by topic.
    • For full-text case law searches, have you considered all the ways your topic might be expressed by different judges at different times?  Look again at your keywords to make sure you have all the relevant synonyms.
    • For full-text case law searches, if you have a broad topic or are retrieving too many cases, consider what subset of cases you need to search.  Can you narrow it by jurisdiction? By timeframe?  By court level?
  • Words and Phrases

  • Note up Cases

**Once you have written up your research, don't forget the citations. The standard legal citation style in Canada is the McGill Guide (the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation). It is available in print or in WestlawNext Canada.**